November is Prematurity Awareness Month – CHOC Offers Innovative and Life-Saving Neonatal Care

In recognition of National Prematurity Awareness month, we’re highlighting the innovative life-saving treatment provided to some of the tiniest and most fragile babies through our neonatology services.

Premature birth is the leading cause of newborn death in the United States. While California has one of the lowest premature birth rates in the nation, almost 9 percent of infants born in 2013 in the state were premature, according to the March of Dimes. Pre-term newborns often need immediate specialized care not available at birthing centers, and CHOC Children’s is ready to help if the baby needs to be transferred.

CHOC uses the latest in life-saving technology and trained neonatal specialists to provide the best possible outcomes for both pre- and full-term newborns. While many hospitals offer neonatal intensive care units (NICUs), the CHOC NICU is rated by the American Academy of Pediatrics as a Level 4 NICU – the highest rating available – and is among the top 25 in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report.

“Because of our innovation and advanced protocols, our survival of low-birth-weight babies, and the long term quality of health of such babies, admitted to the CHOC NICU are the best in California according to the California Perinatal Quality Care Collaborative,” said Dr. Vijay Dhar, medical director, CHOC NICU. “Coordinated care across multiple specialties ensures that these fragile newborns receive treatment from a full medical team.”

With access to a full range of CHOC pediatric subspecialists, the NICU offers a number of life-saving technologies and advanced respiratory support such as high-frequency ventilation and inhaled nitric oxide; advanced brain and body cooling; the only extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) unit in Orange County; and innovative procedures including mandibular distraction and epidural anesthesia.

For babies born as young as 24 weeks, or who weigh less than 1,000 grams, the CHOC NICU has a Small Baby Unit (SBU) — the only one of its kind — to focus on caring for the unique needs of these newborns. We also have the only Surgical NICU on the West Coast, which cares for babies needing complex surgery; the only Cardiac NICU in Orange County that performs open heart surgery on newborns; and a Neurocritical NICU to treat babies with neurological issues such as seizures, asphyxiation and brain damage. All four areas provide the highly specialized care needed for fragile newborns.

CHOC has three NICUs, serving CHOC Children’s Hospital, St. Joseph Hospital and CHOC Children’s at Mission Hospital. In addition, our neonatologists have privileges at more than a dozen hospitals across Southern California. And, we are currently building 36 private, state-of-the-art rooms at CHOC Children’s Hospital, which will further advance the quality, safety and outcomes of our neonatology program.

Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Referrals:

When a baby is born, the CHOC Children’s Transport Team is ready and waiting to transport newborns to CHOC from other hospitals in Southern California. Our neonatologists and surgeons are available for consultations with other hospitals around the clock and can collaborate with referring physicians via phone, telemedicine and secure text messaging.

For any questions, to request a consultation with an on-call neonatologist, or to schedule a transport, referring hospitals may call the CHOC Children’s NICU 24/7 at 714-509-8540.